Bringing the Kingdom Near

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Galatians 6:7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

This week’s reading outlines the process by which disciples move from observation to practicum. For some time, Jesus’ disciples must have felt almost a part of the crowd as they followed Jesus around, listened to him preach, teach, heal and cast out demons. They were as surprised about “what came next” as anybody would be. They belonged to Jesus’ inner circle, but they had absolutely no idea what he might say or do, or where the whole thing was going.

Then Jesus came up with a new plan. “Alright guys, today I want you to count off by twos. One…two…one…two…” …and so it went until all were numbered. “You’ve watched me preach, teach, and heal. Now it’s time for you to put it into practice what you have learned. I’m sending you two by two into the harvest fields. Speak out the good news. Cast out demons. Heal the sick. Spend time with those who welcome you. Shake off the dust of those villages that reject you. Don’t take anything with you—no food, clothing, or money. Any questions?” Read more

Driving Force

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 8:26-40
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

As most readers of the book of Acts learn very early on, any perception of this document as a utopian vision of a pristine church is severely misguided. While it is clear that the Christian community in those earliest days and months and years following Christ’s resurrection experienced triumphant and powerful highs the likes of which it has rarely seen in the centuries since, those early followers of Jesus also experienced crushing defeats. For every day of Pentecost there was a trial before the Sanhedrin. For every healing, there was an imprisonment. For every Barnabas, deemed the “Son of Encouragement,” there is an Ananias or Sapphira, trying to pull a fast one not only on the Christian community, but on the Holy Spirit. Read more

Do Not Be Afraid

Third Sunday After Pentecost
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

As the Ekklesia Project Gathering draws near, with its focus on the church as Mission, and following on Timothy’s reflection for last Sunday, we come this Sunday to the last part of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples before they are sent out as apostles in the gospel of Matthew.

The sending of the apostles in Matthew differs from the story in Mark and Luke, in that we are not told of their return to Jesus, their telling of the experience, or of a restful retreat afterwards (or at least an attempt to retreat). Because of this, in Matthew’s telling there is the sense that the sending continues, up to and including the present day church. Read more

Mission Trips

Second Sunday After Pentecost
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8

In June church folk scatter to the four winds. Along with vacations, camps, ball games, and camping trips, many go out into the world on mission trips. A few years back, some youth from a friend’s Appalachian church traveled to the dark underbelly of Pittsburgh to shine for Jesus. At a rest stop along the way they bumped into a church group from Pittsburgh headed to help the poor people of Appalachia. Maybe they could have all stayed home? People sometimes travel a long way to accomplish things they wouldn’t dream of doing in their own back yard. Read more

Assembling in the Spirit

Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” Acts 2:1

I was going to title this post “The Summer of Our Discontent.”

For various denominational bodies, late spring and early summer are seasons for gathering “all together in one place.” United Methodists conference together, Episcopalians and Baptists convene, and Presbyterians generally assemble (or assemble generally). Long-time participants in these gatherings and others like them might say, with a cynical wink, that, except for the “all together” part (and the being “in one place” part), these meetings are a real blast—productive, enjoyable, edifying . . . . . . Not.

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